5.05.2015

IN LONDON . . .


Thoughts and photos from my time in London...



I landed in London hoping to have me a full Mary Poppins / Alexa Chung experience.

Oh but wait! First this:

So I was waiting at the airport in Berlin for the Easy Jet to London. There was a small cafe on one end of the terminal with a few tables set up along the windows. They were playing cheesy pop songs covered by other cheesy pop artists, and the rain outside had just started to fall, the tapping kind of rain that falls sharp and intermittently, and the sky outside was darkly gray, just like the tiles on the floor of the airport were darkly gray, and also I was peeling myself an orange. 

Now. Just to my right over my shoulder there was a family seated at a table--a dad, a mom, a grandpa. Two young boys. The grandpa had a newspaper that he'd rustle together every now and then. Occasionally he'd glance over the top of his paper with one eyebrow cocked, his glasses low on his nose, that kind of thing. The dad carried a whole host of pens in his front shirt pocket, the mom sported a visor, and both boys wore matching backpacks. Their British accents were thick in the best possible way, and at this very moment we are speaking they are holding a formal vote for their favorite part of their Berlin vacation.

"If you want to vote for the Neues Museum, put your hand up," says the dad. 

"Oh definitely," one of the boys says.

"Uhh-huh. Okay. Right." I imagine dad is making marks in a notebook with one of his pens.

"That's not fair, you didn't GO to the TV Tower!" says one of the boys, at which time the other is disqualified from voting for being too indecisive. He is six, maybe seven. He sits back in his chair and sighs, but seems to understand the necessity in the decision.

Grandpa pipes up during the landmark nominees, "Oh yes, that was quite memorable."

"I tell you what, we'll have a revote in the end!" mom says at one point when one of the boys regrets a past vote and wants to change it. This idea excites everyone.

"No, the casting vote does start with Alex," dad says to settle a disagreement.

"Decided. Three votes. Carried." 

This goes on for ever. I am giddy with it. Favorite hotel? Favorite restaurant. Favorite bus ride? 

Just when things are about to get especially ludicrous with dad headway into announcing the nominees for best waitress, the loudspeaker informs us it is time to board the plane, and I throw away my orange peels.


I feel like I could sum up any pre-existing knowledge of London with the movies I grew up watching as a kid. Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Bedknobs & Broomsticks. So, not much. Honorary mention to Harry Potter. London is the movie set to my fairytales. It was also gray and moody and beautiful, with the most aggressive panhandlers in all the cities I'd visited, and surprisingly I found it a lot less exciting than I thought it would be. I think without realizing it I'd built up these expectations for London that no London could ever dream of fulfilling, like London was going to somehow be some foreign, strange land to me, all different and new and culturally odd, when really, how? Because of all the cultures that closely resemble each other, I mean, it's only been a couple hundred years . . . But I was surprised to find how very Brooklyn-y London felt to me. London felt super familiar. It was also very, very big. 


Second star to the right, and straight on till morning!

Guys, I walked across that bridge just as Big Ben struck noon, and it was transformative. It brought tears to my eyes, it felt like the sound of the bells could explode out of my chest.

I followed my strategy for every city I visited: Spend the first day exploring, spend the second day going places on purpose, spend the third day wandering aimlessly about while daydreaming. I can't imagine a better way to experience a foreign city alone. I still can't believe how lucky I am I got to do this. 


Early each day on the steps of St. Paul's . . .


. . . the little old bird woman comes. 


You know, London also reminded me a little bit of Portland?


I spent an afternoon in Borough Market. Actually, I spent far longer there than I meant to--once I got in I had a hard time figuring how to get out! But Borough Market is a postcard in every direction you look, it could have been worse.


London desserts were all very pretty, yet ultimately disappointing. Womp womp. But don't take my word for it, I was practically living off French Fries by this point, happy as a clam. French Fries and I had found a good groove. We were, like, simpatico. 


I have very precise memories of wandering through this very part of town while eating a Kit Kat. Of all the things to remember vividly, isn't that weird? (Are you impressed with the culinary adventures I obviously took?)


Pretty.


Although. If *I* were the Queen of England, I'd need, like, streamers and flags coming out of all the windows. So freaking stately over there, where's the fun in that? ;)


Once again I got to stay in the most beautiful home, tucked away behind a private gate and garden, once again thanks to Homeaway. Homeaway! I think I love you! This spot may have taken the cake. You can see the listing here. It's insane. It was local and very convenient to the tube, and just a short walk to Portobello Road, but it felt like freaking Pemberly. The owner of the unit is a dreamboat! She overnighted the keys to me from Santa Barbara to Brooklyn before I left for the trip, she texted me to ask how my trip was going and if I needed anything while I was there (I did, an outlet converter, she told me which drawer to check), and then she even advised me that my banoffee pie might be a gut bomb, so I knew to only finish half! ;) SERVICE! 

images from the homeaway listing

I had just one short afternoon to spend with an old old blog friend and her two daughters. (Our blogs are old, not our beings--we're practically spring chickens!) She asked what I wanted to see and before she'd even finished her question mark-indicating voice-raise I blurted, "DIAGON ALLEY."


"DIAGONALLY!" 


Because duhhhhhhh.


While we were there we listened in as a tour guide wearing Gryffindor colors described how a scene with Hagrid was shot. Next time. Next time! Paying customer. And the studio tour, too. Just you try and stop me.

This was a real bright spot:


Oh my turkey gravy goodness, I met the most amazing group of women at our event in London and I can't thank them enough for being there, for being wonderful, and for giving me all that love + support. It was a hugely profound night for me. I read a bit from My Own Private Idaho before signing, and it hit me somewhere in the middle of it how freaking weird and wonderful it was to be reading about Moscow, in London, from a book, with a four-year-old, and an employed husband, waiting for me back at home in New York City. 

W-I-L-D. 

(hah! moscow me would have been so relieved to hear that the moscow holbs would eventually find employment, it was pretty dicey there in the economy for a bit. :)


Portobello Roaaaaaad! How is this post still going? 


Street where the riches of, hey--LIBERTY OF LONDON, TOO!


Aaaaand fish and chips. 

Dudes, a proper fish and chips is something worth traveling for. 


Oh my gosh when will she finish this post?! But, The Globe! The Globe Theatre was really wonderful to see in person. 


As was this:


"You should take a photo right here, it's the old and the new of London all in one shot!" said my smart friend Kjrsten. Good move, Kjrsten.


And, uhmm, bikes. 


And whew! We done. We out, bishes!

I have a post with tips on home sharing abroad coming soon, as well as a post about PARIS CLOTHING + BEAUTY TRENDS FOR THE LAAAAADIES, HOLLAAAAA!, but aside from that, these vacation posts done be finished, suckaz.


Over and out, bathroom grout.

46 comments :

  1. I'm so glad you had such a good time here Natalie. It was lovely to spend some time with you!
    Amy xoxo

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  2. i really enjoyed that Nat, my partner is from London so we spend quite an amount of time there, great to see all the familiar sites:) pity you did not get to visit Ireland:) xx

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  3. It was very interesting reading an outsiders view. I saw my city as a traveler. Thank you.

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  4. Your pictures are lovely ! I live in London and it's nice to see the city photographed so nicely. If you visit again let me know and I'll recommend some places to get dessert that won't disappoint you !!

    Alex | www.myfroley.com

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  5. "Spend the first day exploring, spend the second day going places on purpose, spend the third day wandering aimlessly about while daydreaming." This sounds like a wonderful way to approach a visit to any city!

    And ohh how I'd love to see the Globe Theatre in person! To see a play there would even be better!

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  6. Great photos again....but you need a restaurant guide/recommendations, seriously! If you thought Paris cuisine was not as good as Amsterdam and London desserts were disappointing (and you resorted to KitKats ;)), you were eating in all the wrong places!!

    I had to google "panhandlers"....but have to disagree with you on that one, I have never found it a problem in London!

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    2. girl tell me about it! I think the city was just so big that my brain blitzed and it didn't even occur to me to tweet for recommendations! next time I'll need a plan, I had no plan whatsoever. I encountered only one aggressive panhandler the whole trip and it was in London, so I guess that's not saying much, but some woman literally pushed a bouquet of flowers into a man's hand shouting at him for money after he'd said no thank you twice, it was a little bit nuts. he kind of shoved her off him, and then everyone around got all tense and started clutching their handbags, it was a total adventure.

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  7. I could live inside these pictures for a good while...thanks for sharing.

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  8. Oh great. Now I have "feed the birds" stuck in my head. ;) It's so hard no to though, right?!

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  9. Excellent bit of writing with the story about the airport family vote. I felt like I was in that moment. And, like I might try to recreate it with my own, non-British family someday, but we'll vote on, like, the best dive taco shop when we visit Grandma and Grandpa in Phoenix.

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  10. As someone said above, it's nice to see my city through a traveller's eyes. The disappointing desserts are a bit of a bummer though, especially if you had to resort to a Kit Kat; Nestle is the least delicious (and least ethical) of all English chocolate, in my opinion anyway. Cadbury's all the way! (And yes, I know Nestle and Cadbury's are available in the US too but I'm sure it's a different recipe?) Next time, get your ass to Ben's Cookies and you won't be disappointed!

    I was just wondering if you could clear up what the situation with HomeAway was? I know you mentioned something about not having the right cash to pay one of the apartment owners in a previous post so I figured you were paying your own way, but the frequent tagging of the company on IG and mentions on here made me wonder if it was a business arrangement. Not knocking you or HomeAway, I've used them lots of times before and found them great so it wouldn't change my opinion either way; I just like knowing when an ad is an ad. You're normally very upfront with disclosure so I hope you don't mind me asking.

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    1. hi!!

      homeaway offered my stay in each city in exchange for press. I explained the particulars in the first post I wrote on my time in Paris, and I hope I've been clear in all my mentions since that my stays have been gifts (a big gift!) and that a post is upcoming, but since we never had a contracted amount of mentions and they are not paying for specific content or messages, none of my posts have been "sponsored" by homeaway,
      just "supported," I suppose! I don't believe these posts require sponsorship disclaimers as as such, if I understand the attorney I spoke with on this matter correctly (though that was, like, four years ago, hah!) the liklihood i'm getting that wrong is fairly high, hahaha, not putting anything past myself here. :)

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    2. the amount of typos in that comment right there is a record! anyway--if i'm misunderstanding the rules i'm happy to adjust, but i'm sincerely not trying to pull a fast one, just trying to use the proper language to differentiate between "gifts with no hard strings attached" and "paid sponsorships."

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    3. Thanks for such a quick and comprehensive reply, it's much clearer now and I appreciate you being upfront. I remember you saying in the Paris post that you worked with HomeAway to find places to stay but I don't think it explained the particulars of whether the stays were "comped" as such, unless you're referring to a different post that I missed. And from my reading of your posts since, it hasn't been clear to me that the stays were gifts, though I did make that assumption for whatever reason. Perhaps there's no legal obligation to make that clear, I really have no idea what the ins and outs of it are, but I just wanted to let you know as you said you hope you've been clear. I thought the situation was probably as you have described above, but it was your mention of not having the right cash to pay one of the apartment owners that threw me off, although maybe I misread that too? Or maybe my reading comprehension isn't what it should be at the end of a 12 hour day.

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    4. oh! that was a refundable damage deposit in the Amsterdam unit that needed to be paid in cash, so I covered it. and managed to bungle it by 10 euro. classic.

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    5. That makes sense! Thanks again for being so clear. There are so many bloggers who don't disclose these things properly, particularly in the UK where the rules about such things seem to be a bit behind the times, so it's always appreciated when someone does the right thing.

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  11. Looks like a fun trip! I think it's nice to be spontaneous and not race around a city trying to hit every trendy or popular spot. I did that in Paris--had a list of places I thought I had to go...the spontaneous moments were the best ones.

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  12. you are such a good writer, natalie, I always enjoy your blog posts! such a vivid picture you paint with your words, I love it!

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  13. East all the f-in kitkats you want. I've traveled to the four corners of the earth and they are in all the candy sections.

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  14. I found London to be less exciting then I expected too, Natalie!

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  15. Your pictures are making me so nostalgic!! London is my favourite city in the world. So much to see and so much history! I feel like jumping on a plane right now and going back (baseball bat to the head to manage fear of flying - worth it).

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  16. These pictures have me lusting to go back! My husband is in London for work right now, but it didn't quite work out for me to tag a long (womp...womp...). But when we went a few years ago I also experienced how familiar the city felt to me. I thought it would be more culturally different, but I felt like I could have literally plopped right in and begun a new life.

    Also, that tub!

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  17. London didn't totally thrill me either! I visited family there for 8 days, and while I loved the museums and monuments, I was most ecstatic to see a play at The Globe and stand on the cliffs of Dover. The countryside was beautiful and I think that's what I wanted London to be, but duh it's a city.

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  18. You took some incredible photos and its great to see a city that you live in through the eyes of someone seeing it fresh. I love Borough Market, its one of my favorite places, but i don't think I've seen it with that few people in it in a long while!

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  19. Your photography is fantastic! I want to go now. -Hanna Lei

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  20. Beautiful photography as always.It's always fun looking at your pictures. I'm sure you're still pinching yourself knowing that you had such an amazing opportunity to tour London! Diagon Alley...my girls are jelly! Take care!

    xo

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  21. Do you have any advice for a 19 year old girl traveling to London by herself for three days?

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  22. I'm so glad you loved London! And fish and chips..you've made me hungry!
    Gold Dust

    x

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  23. Amazing pics!
    Lidia

    www.lidiasbag.blogspot.it

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  24. My husband just told me that we are officially planning a Europe trip for October, so these posts just became THAT much more exciting to me!! Will you be announcing US tour dates anytime soon? Please tell me that's happening.

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  25. oh, dear... this post and pictures delighted and hurt me on equal amounts... SUCH A DREAM OF MINE. I'd love to go to London. Love? I mean, I DAYDREAM EVERY-SINGLE-MINUTE-OF-THE-DAY. Sorry for the shouting, I get excited about London. Thank you so much for these stunning pictures and adventures.
    ps. DIAGONALLY! that made me lol ;)

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  26. Love, love this post! Thank you for all the great tips- I'm going to Paris-London-Geneva next month!

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  27. Your pictures are gorgeous. I'm dying to go to London and England. It has replaced Italy as my #1 travel destination in recent years. I'm pinning this post for when I do go, which I hope will be sooner rather than later!

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  28. I really hope your mention of Sympatico was because you're a Peep Show fan

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  29. amazing pictures! I adore London! my favourite city ever!

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  30. Maybe you lived in London in a past life. Eh? Eh? Pretty pictures, you!

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  31. late to the London post party, but it was SO NICE MEETING YOU! It was a good old day shooting the breeze with you and all the wonderful ladies I met and have stayed in touch with. xxx

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  32. FAB pics of London - I might have to repin a few of the major site pics - the one of Big Ben is EPIC - great crop and perfect capture of a London grey sky - so typical of here. I am happy you liked it chez moi. Funny to see my home on a blog...XO Marina

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  33. FAB pics of London - I might have to re pin a few of your major site pics - BIG BEN EPIC - great crop and perfect (typical) London grey sky. Happy you liked it chez moi - funny to see my home on a blog! XO Marina

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  34. THOSE are not London desserts, they look like fancy schmancy fake patisserie. In England we don't have desserts, we have PUDDINGS. You've not lived until you've eaten hot sticky toffee pudding (a really yummy cake with dates and a hot toffee sauce poured aaaalllll over) and cold cream. Also, kitkats are exactly what one should eat when in need of a little sustenance in an any English big city. Or something like a slab of lemon drizzle cake with tea. You need to go back and do puddings, proper. xxx

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  35. I live in London but this post has just made me excited about going to work in the city tomorrow! Nicely captured Natalie, and thanks for reminding me of the good things!

    www.alifelessphysical.com

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  36. I did a six week study abroad in Oxford while in college many moons ago. Many many moons. I only spent a few days in London (two weekends worth plus a couple day/night adventures), and yet this post made me soooo nostalgic. There are so many places in the world that I want to visit, but going back to England still falls very high on that list. Love all the movie references. :)

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  37. you look positively 11 years old in the group photo. : )

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